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Tales of the Cocktail® Announces 2017 Official Cocktail Competition Winner

Embrasse de la terre​
The winning cocktail of the 2017 Official Cocktail Competition: Embrasse de la terre​ by Zachary Faden of Mirabelle in Washington D.C.

After a month of carefully sampling hundreds of recipes submitted from all over the world, Tales of the Cocktail® is proud to announce the winner of the 2017 Official Cocktail Competition: congratulations to Zachary Faden of Mirabelle in Washington, D.C. for his winning cocktail Embrasse de la terre, a phrase that roughly translates to “to kiss the earth.” Faden’s spin on the martini edged out a victory over seven other finalists whose recipes came in one point below his own. For his impressive recipe, Faden will receive a cash prize, be presented with a trophy by the official sponsor of the cocktail competition, Royer Corporation, and will have Embrasse de la terre featured as the Official Cocktail of this summer’s Tales of the Cocktail.

"The reason that this is recipe won this years competition, is not only because it is exceptionally delicious, which it is, but also because it was exactly what we were looking for,” remarked Eric Castro, 2017 Official Cocktail Judge, and partner at Simple Serve. “What we mean by that is that the drink achieves complexity and elegance, while staying true to its core of simplicity and economy of ingredients. Much like Miles Davis could draw a vast range of emotion with only a few notes, this cocktail reveals much more than its parts would suggest."

This year, the stakes of the competition were extremely high: the martini has held the reputation of the quintessential cocktail for nearly 100 years; in describing the drink, author H.L. Mencken deemed it “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.”[1] In their task to put a new spin on perfection, contestants only had the requirements of using gin or vodka as a base spirit and including vermouth to serve as guidelines – the rest of the recipe depended on the creativity of the contestant. A panel consisting of cocktail experts Erick Castro, Rachel Ford, Robert Hess, and Agostino Perrone judged the 322 submissions Tales of the Cocktail® received for this year’s competition. In elaborating on what separated Embrasse de la terre from the rest of the submissions, Robert Hess stated:

“It is not simply the selection of ingredients which can potentially make a great cocktail, it is the actual understanding of how those ingredients work together. This simple, yet elegant recipe illustrates this understanding, while still providing an adventure of flavors.”

Attendees of Tales will receive a free voucher for Zachary Faden’s winning recipe at “A Toast to Tales,” held on Wednesday, July 19th in front of the Hotel Monteleone. For more information about Tales of the Cocktail, including how to buy tickets for this summer’s festivities, please click here.

Zachary Faden's inspiration for Embrasse de la terre:

"This year is the Year of the Martini. The Martini, the king of cocktails, has had many recipes, interpretations, riffs, and iterations throughout the years. Yet, the essentials remain: spirit, vermouth, bitters, and the occasional modifier. I wanted my version to pay respectful homage to history while simultaneously embracing a modern sensibility. I started with genever, gin’s luscious, velvety, malty precursor. In particular, Rutte Old Simon Genever preserves legacy and tradition while innovating with the addition of nuts and celery. The lightness and crispness of Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambéry is a natural marriage. Yellow Chartreuse replaces the modifier of maraschino or curaçao found in older Martini recipes, adding an herbaceous undertone while also supplying mild sweetness and rich palate roundness. The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters compliment the drink’s vegetal characteristics, and highlight the celery notes of the Rutte Old Simon Genever. The result is Embrasse de la terre, "to kiss the earth."

Get the recipe for Embrasse de la terre here.

When asked what it felt like to win, Faden replied, "Winning the Tales of the Cocktail 2017 Official Cocktail Competition has been a thoroughly joyous, deeply gratifying, and overwhelmingly affirming experience. It is truly an honor to have my cocktail recipe selected for recognition by this eminent organization and its esteemed group of judges. In 2014 I left a comfortable career as a defense contractor to pursue my passion. In addition to my now greater sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness, winning this competition is a very tangible validation of my career change. For the better part of a decade, I have told myself, “Next year is the year that I will go to Tales.” Finally, this IS the year I will first attend. I am incredibly excited and grateful to come to Tales as a winner!"

About the winner:

The Winner of the Official Cocktail Competition, Zachary Faden of Mirabelle, Washington D.C. The Winner of the Official Cocktail Competition, Zachary Faden of Mirabelle, Washington D.C.

Zachary Faden earned a master’s degree in Intellectual History originally intending on becoming a professor, accidentally ended up as a defense contractor, and is now enjoying a satisfying career in the world of hospitality. His inquiry into the history and culture of drinking and drink making has led to a home library containing over a hundred cocktail books and an impressive home bar. In his own words, “There are always more books to read, bottles to find, and drinks to enjoy.” Faden started as a stagiaire at DC’s Columbia Room. He later joined the bar program at Rogue24, helped open and manage Northern Virginia’s Magnolia's on King’s cocktail lounge, then returned to DC to work at Convivial, and is currently the Lead Bartender at Mirabelle.

Congratulations to our runners up:

Each of the seven cocktails below tied with one point less than the winning cocktail.

  • Blind Date by Tom Walker of Fresh Kills, Brooklyn, NY, USA (Boodles Gin, Alessio Vermouth Bianco, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, grapefruit twist)
  • Brooding About by Devon Boyll of Saxon + Parole, NYC, NY, USA (Woody Creek Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Farigoule Thyme Liqueur, lemon garnish)
  • Rossonian by Stuart Jensen of Curio, Denver, Colorado, USA (Woody Creek Gin, Noilly Pratt Extra Dry, Manzanilla En Rama Sherry)
  • The Last Pickle by Selina Ardan of Maison Pickle, NYC, NY, USA (Hendrick's Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Bitter Truth Cucumber Bitters, quick pickled watermelon)
  • Page of Swords by Drew Gosselin of Compere Lapin, New Orleans, LA, USA (Uncle Val's Restorative Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, Salers Apertif)
  • Waiting for Spring by Joshua Streetman of Motor Supply Bistro, Columbia, SC, USA (Woody Creek Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Dolin Genepy des Alpes, strawberry)
  • Stay Gold by Ryan Perry of Brasserie du Parc, Houston, TX, USA (Beefeater Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Lustau Manzanilla Papirusa Dry Sherry)


1. Edmunds, Lowell (1981). Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5971-9.

Hannah Kobrin is an editorial intern for Tales. Currently, she is working on finishing her BA in English literature at Tulane University.

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